Public Benefits : An Introduction to Public Benefits

How can I find out what benefits I might be eligible for?

A great tool is a web-based program called The Benefits Bank®.

To do a “quick check” of what you might be eligible for, you can go to www.thebenefitbank.com.

In just a few minutes, the tool will let you know what public benefits you might be eligible for.

To use the tool in its entirety, you will need to go to a benefits bank location where the trained counselors will assist you in completing applications for all the benefits you may be eligible for.

You can also find information about a variety of things such as cash assistance, education, job training and more by reviewing the Ohio Here to Help website.

I work, can I still get food stamps?

YES!  Many people work and get food stamps.

To qualify for food stamps, your income must be below the Federal Poverty Guideline.

For a family of three, that means that you can make $1300 a month and still be eligible for about $190 in food stamps.

I’m homeless and don’t have a permanent address, what do I need to do to prove my residence in order to get food stamps?

Homeless households are not required to verify where they live.

If you are living in a shelter, however, it may be helpful to bring a letter to the food stamp office which is written by a shelter employee and says that you are living in the shelter.

I don’t have any identification but the welfare office says I need it to get benefits, what can I do?

The County Department of Job and Family Services has to make sure you are who you say you are, so often times a state issued photo ID is what the case worker will ask for. While convenient, this is not the only way to verify your ID.

You can use several other items to verify (a work or school ID, wage stubs, a birth certificate, divorce or marriage license, adoption papers, or a voter registration card). If you don’t have these papers, you should talk to your caseworker and ask them to talk with a "collateral contact" who can confirm you who are.

Shelter workers and employers are examples of possible collateral contacts.

I don’t agree with a change in my case that the welfare office has made, what can I do?

Along with the notice you got saying what change they are going to make, you should have also received a double sided piece of paper called “Request for a State Hearing”. With this piece of paper, you can request a state hearing and/or a county conference to help resolve your problem.

After you have filled out the paper the best you can (it’s okay to leave some items blank, just make sure to sign and date it), simply fold it in half, staple or tape it shut, and drop it in a mail box. It already has postage paid on it, so you don’t need to add a stamp.

Someone will contact you to set up the time for your county conference and/or your state hearing. At the hearing, the hearing officer will ask the Agency to explain why they made the change. Then you will have a chance to tell your side of the story and why you disagree with the change. You can take someone with you if you want. That person can be a friend, family member or a representative. You should give the hearing officer any papers that might help them to make their decision.

After the hearing, you will get a notice of what the hearing officer decided and the action the agency will take. If you still don’t agree, you may be able to go to court. Talk to your legal aid society to find out about the options you have.

My children have been temporarily removed from my home, can I still get OWF cash assistance?

Yes, if there is a reunification plan for the children to come back to your household, you can continue receiving cash assistance for up to 6 payment months after the removal date.

What’s the difference between a county conference and a state hearing?

A county conference is an informal meeting with your caseworker, their supervisor and you. You can bring someone along with you to help explain your case or even just for moral support. At the county conference, you get to say why you think the action your caseworker took was wrong. The caseworker explains why they took that action. You try and work out a fair agreement. There is no chance to appeal this decision.

A state hearing is a more formal process. The caseworker and their supervisor will be there and you can still bring someone to help you, but this time there will also be a hearing officer. The hearing officer may participate by video conference or by speaker phone. The hearing officer will ask questions of everyone there. You can bring a witness to this hearing if you think it is important for your case. After the hearing, the hearing officer will mail a decision.

If you don’t agree with the decision, you may appeal the decision to court.

Often times, it is best to ask for both a county conference and a state hearing. The county conference will happen before the hearing. If you are able to come up with an agreement at the county conference, you can cancel the state hearing. If you can’t resolve it at the county conference, you can go forward with the state hearing (you haven’t given up any rights). Asking for both a county conference and a state hearing may be the best approach.

What if I have more questions?

You should contact your local legal aid office to see if they can help answer any of your questions about public benefits.

See also the Forms & Education tab in this section for more information.

The information in this site is not intended as legal advice.
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